Q&A: Dingle Yandell on Digital Opera and Popular Music Videos with “What Power Art Thou”

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(Credit: Zen Grisdale)

The Orchester du Siècle des Enlightenment (OAE) is actively creating new life in the digital realm of opera by evolving traditional norms of the genre and exploring other creative interpretations to share with audience members on a more level. wide through a new series called “music video remake” movies.

The aesthetic concept behind OAE’s recent film, which features bass-baritone Dingle Yandell’s interpretation of Purcell’s “What Power Art Thou”, is one that marries the idea of ​​a popular music video, ” Somebody that I used to know ”from Gotye, along with the art world. Apparently shaping and altering expectations around the idea of ​​a popular music video making a song ‘famous’ through instant gratification but ‘still missing the mark’ around the lasting effect of an opera, OAE instead performs l Purcell’s aria as a rich landscape of emotional and imaginative paths staying true to the very essence of opera as an art form and reflecting on every step along the way.

OperaWire spoke to Dingle Yandell to learn more about his take on this aria and the artistic implication that advances what digital presence means for the future of opera.

OperaWire: How did you creatively prepare for this film? Do you want to guide me through your process and transformation?

Dingle Yandell: Crispin Woodhead, CEO of OAE, approached me with the idea of ​​pairing popular music videos with baroque music and described how this unusual marriage would generate a new experience around classical music . I thought it was a great idea and was interested in trying something different as an artist because I find that kind of freshness really exciting.

The concept behind Gotye’s stop-motion video for “Somebody that I Used to Know” and the fragmentation of musical expression within Purcell’s tune “What Power Art Thou” by King Arthur, which is about the cold encompassing The Cold Genius, and the idea that he wanted to become frozen again, fit very well. good. The air of Purcell which already has that jarring aesthetic of being cold and frozen is akin to starting and stopping a stop-motion movie. The incredibly unusual rhythmic pattern of the music works very well with this idea.

Woodhead also mentioned that he wanted to use cooler colors than Gotye’s video, which is warmer. After considering all of his ideas, I then decided to release this tune again and rethink it.

I’ve played this tune a lot and it’s such an unusual piece because it presents itself in a remarkably modern way, again, hundreds of years later. Specifically, I watched the legato of this tune as it requires an energy line that needs to be sustained throughout the piece. It’s easy to watch this music and think it doesn’t require an energy line, but as I reexamine this piece now, I find myself realizing the importance of growing and developing this energy line.

We recorded the aria separately from the film, in Lutyen’s Church at Golders Green in St. Judes-on-the-Hill. This provided us with the best acoustics and the reverb in my voice helped create the energy line I wanted throughout the aria. We also wanted to express a sense of privacy when recording this piece and so decided to make a circle with me in the middle. It then gave a nice picture of us around a fire together, reducing the forces and feeling that sort of vast expanse around us.

A feeling of isolation while being surrounded by great voids, with the cold creeping in all the time. It was great because it helped me get into the dramatic character of The Cold Genius.

The filming part was different in that it was usually centered around my head and so I had to, with my head, translate the drama of the play. It got me to really work on my facial dramas, which I think will ultimately benefit me when it comes to virtual streaming performance in general. I worked on developing micro-gestures with my face and synchronizing these movements with the film, which took about ten hours to film.

OW: Tell me about your energy during the shoot. How did you self-preserving and self-sustaining your creative energy during the 10 hour shoot? What was going on in your head, while your head was all that was being filmed?

DY: That’s an important question to consider actually because with the four artists around me who painted me for 10 hours of stopping and starting for the film, in a room that was unrelated at one scene, I had to really dig in and make the music your own. I’m lucky because I’ve played the whole opera before and I know where the aria is in the opera and how the music hits you like a hammer when it starts. Instrumentally, this tune makes you stop and think in a way that touches you very deeply, and so I used this deep understanding of the music during the film to translate its entirety.

Another big factor for me was remembering this as a piece that grows and develops throughout. I wanted to make sure that at first I wasn’t 100 percent with my facial dramas because I knew I would be forced to grow up and develop these micro gestures as the aria grew and was developing. That’s why I started with my eyes closed and my body still. I knew what would end up being energetically required of me as the air moved forward.

Plus, the fact that this movie took 10 hours to create, I can see how fresh I would be at the start and then naturally exhausted by the end. This translates well into the movie as it is the natural progression of both the creative process and the character as a whole. While I hadn’t planned for it to happen that way, it did and I think it expresses The Cold Genius’s intention to come back frozen again.

OW: What’s your take on this type of project and how does the film capture the air but not capture the entire opera? Do you think this is an effective way to get listeners interested in this art form?

DY: Classical music traditionally has a purist set of standards and expectations, however, to prevent new creative ideas that support the expansion of classical music expression would be anathema. Most of the creative artists who push the boundaries of expression through classical music have a deep connection with music and therefore create high level works. I also think the reason this movie works and delivers such a top performance with one tune is that everything has been really thought through. If you were to artistically separate it and analyze it in relation to air, I think it would show dedication and passion to the subject of this type of performance. The high regard that everyone involved in this project has for opera and this way of presenting it can be felt and can be achieved as beneficially engaging both opera traditionalists and potential opera listeners. .

I think this is a perennial question that is difficult to answer because it requires a deep connection to opera and the human senses together. Again, this project introduced the visuals first and then the air began. The audience was captivated one by one by the sense of sight and hearing which then invited them to the experience in an interesting way. I also think that as a performer it’s important to take the critique in regards to how sensitive you need to be when you creatively push the boundaries of classical music to begin with and how much in-depth research is needed to get started. deepen it all. level connections.

OW: Watching this film, I continued to imagine it as a live art installation. Take that out of the studio and create a space where audience members can come and experience the creative process live. What do you think about this idea ?

DY: The whole filming process took ten hours and I can imagine that audience members would learn a lot by walking and witnessing this in person during that time, especially when they saw the passion firsthand and the dedication of each artist involved.

The film as an installation would show the inner workings and artistic contributions of each on this deeper level and I think this idea is interesting and would pique curiosity about opera as an art form in many ways.

The film as a live art installation would stimulate the senses of audience members and invite everyone to learn more together about the creative processes required to present a well-developed artistic performance.


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